Advancing the Story

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We need to look hard at the stories we create, and wrestle with them. Retell and retell them, and work with them like clay. It is in the retelling and returning that they give us their wisdom.Marni Gillard

Avila and wife MaribelLast week I sat down with author and playright Jorge Avila, a member of We Write Steamboat, to discuss the gigantic leap of success that he has just experienced. To read a short summary of his musical, please go to the blog from last Thursday.

(Photo left: Jorge Avila and his wife Maribel)

Jorge had just returned a week previously to his hometown of Steamboat Springs, Colorado from a very busy six months in California. His live theatre musical, adapted from his book Maricopa Men in Pink had a three day run at the Plaza de la Raza, Cultural Center for the Arts & Education on Mission Road in Los Angeles. Avila was ebullient as he answered the questions I had for him to learn more about his experience. Here is part of our discussion about going from local author to playright in a very short few years:

Sue: Jorge, when was Maricopa Men in Pink published? 

Jorge: In 2010 it was published. A short time afterward I sent it off to a friend who is a stage designer in L.A. to get his opinion. He reviewed it and gave me some feedback about adapting it for a play. I decided that my vision for the work was a live theatre musical production. So I rewrote it exactly 2 years, nine months ago in script format along with song lyrics. Caleb Encompos, a resident who helps with the music program at the Christian Center here in Steamboat, composed the music to accompany the lyrics. I approached the Chief Theatre here in town, but it didn’t seem to be the right venue. So,then we sent it off to three production companies in California. 

Sue:  So, what was the response? 

Jorge: I’d like to say that there have been few  Latino or controversial political musicals that I am aware of other than In the Heights and Hamilton and the Book of Mormon. So I was happy to even get a response and it was positive response from two of them. I chose one of the production companies that I felt best understood my vision. I was offered a small sum of money from the production company, but I took half of that because I wanted to be directly involved in the entire process, so that the final product would be what I envisioned.

So, I began over the next six months going to L.A. one week out of every month. For the next six months, Caleb Encompos and I chose vocalists and actors for the live musical production. Once we heard my lyrics put to music and saw it performed by the actors we had chosen, there were some tweeks that were made before the opening.

Sue: So, tell me about the three night run.

Jorge: The turnout was outstanding compared to what I had anticipated. I was told for an unknown author/playright, typical sales would be 60% of the seats. The first and third nights we had 95% of all tickets sold, and the middle evening 75%. Surprising, considering I read in a New York Times article that out of 318 million Americans, 58 million agreed with Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s handling of inmates in Tent City Jail in Arizona. Seventy eight million disagreed, and the whole rest of the population knew nothing about the news story.

Sue: How did that feel? To see your musical come before live audience like that?

Jorge: Surreal! I feel flattered and proud but it was very stressful. I even started up a bad habit – smoking. I hadn’t smoked in six years and I ate too much and gained a little weight.

The musical was even mentioned on National TV on Spanish stations. While we were waiting for the production to begin on opening night, I stepped outside and there were 120 people in line to get a ticket – to my show! I couldn’t believe it and I counted every one of them!

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The rest of this interview on All Things Fulfilling will be posted the week after Christmas. Do return because we will be talking about Avila’s rewards in terms of personal fulfillment which were a result of his determination, persistance and his belief that what he had was fitting for a quality live musical production that still has great potential for future audiences. We will be sharing more about his special award from the City of Los Angeles also!

This blog is brought to you by Sue Batton Leonard, EVVY award-winning author of Gift of a Lifetime: Finding Fulfilling Things in the Unexpected.

 

 

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Local Writer to Playright

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A culture is made –or destroyed –by it’s articulate voices. ~ Ayn Rand

Jorge Avila, a Mexican by birth, moved to the United States in 1995. Since then he has become an author of two books Suriana and the Sulphur Cave and Maricopa Men in Pink. The later is a controversial story about prisoners in Arizona and “Sheriff Joe” known in the media as “the toughest sheriff” around. He sentenced two thousand convicts to serve their sentences in pink underwear and handcuffs for better accountability. The macho men probably could not have been more insulted!

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Christmas came early to Avila, a member of We Write Steamboat our independent publishing network group, when his first publication Maricopa Men in Pink was  adapted as a musical and came to live theatre in Los Angeles. It had an extremely successful run with nearly booked houses each evening.

Stay tuned to All Things Fulfilling on Monday because we will be featuring an interview with him about what it has been like to go from local writer to a playwright within a very short few years. Avila was recently recognized as a person who has helped advance the arts in the LA area.

This blog is brought to you by author Sue Batton Leonard.

A New Musical: Allegiance

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Human spirit is the ability to face the uncertainty of the future with curiosity and optimism. It is the belief that problems can be solved and differences resolved. ~ Bernard Beckett

allegianceHave you heard about the  American story now being played out on Broadway? Allegiance is a real and important tale of the Kimura family who came to America after World War II and the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Similar tales of family bonds, duty and defiance, hope, loyalty and the power of the human spirit could be told by 120,000 other Japanese-American families who fled their country in search of a new tomorrow in the United States of America.

George Takei and Tony® winner Lea Salonga star in this live theatre production. To read more about this live musical production, visit the website.

See you tomorrow on All Things Fulfilling.

This blog is brought to you by Sue Batton Leonard, award-winning author of Gift of a Lifetime: Finding Fulfilling Things in the Unexpected and Lessons of Heart & Soul.

Summer is Not Over Till It’s Over

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I am so happy you returned to All Things Fulfilling today. Perhaps you are like me, not quite ready yet to step into the third season.

Today’s multi-media look back at summer is brought to you through a video from Carl’s Old Record Club. Their You Tube channel has a number of other videos that you will enjoy viewing. They are nicely produced – syncing music with images.

Aren’t we fortunate to be living in the digital age whereby we can easily share all types of media, such as independently published films, music and e-books with others?

Enjoy the creative entertainment of others frequently because it will enhance your own personal fulfillment!

This blog is brought to you by Sue Batton Leonard. Check out her EVVY award-winning audio book! It is also available in paperback and e-book as well.

Gods, Generals and Irish Ballad

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May the sound of happy music, And the lilt of Irish laughter, fill your heart with gladness, that stays forever after. ~ Unknown

Happy St. Patty’s Day. Today’s blog is about an Irish ballad called Kathleen Mavourneen. The composer of the song is someone who I hold near and to my heart, even though I am several generations removed from him. I only know him through my father’s side of our family story.

A rendition of  Kathleen Mavourneen was filmed as part of the movie Gods & Generals but unfortunately it got cut in the editing process. The story take place during the Civil War era and it was filmed in many different places in the region where I grew up. Scenery from throughout the mid-Atlantic States of Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and at the site of the battle of  Antietam are in the movie. The film is based on the book by Jeffrey Shaara.

If you wish to learn more about my ancestor’s connection to the ballad Kathleen Mavourneen check out Gift of a Lifetime: Finding Fulfilling Things in the Unexpected. You can read all about it in Chapter 16, My Beloved.

Have a great St. Patricks Day, everyone! And remember to go out and ~

make your own luck!

This blog is brought to you by award-winning author Sue Batton Leonard.

 

Grounded, Even at Sea

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“Without great solitude, no serious work is possible.” ~ Pablo Picasso

Taylor Batton 1Something completely different was planned for today’s blog but I just got wind of some  developing news, so I’ve changed my story!

On February 14, 2013, two years ago, I posted a blog called Songs, Taylor Made. The first time I featured young musician, songwriter and vocal artist, Taylor Batton on All Things Fulfilling, he was a student at Maine Maritime Academy. He has since graduated and he’s now navigating waters in places around the world piloting tremendous seafaring vessels – tugboats and such.

Batton uses his times of solitude to come to understand himself better and the world around him. His thoughts are used to create narratives through his music. As he says of his nautical life “You get a really strong sense of loneliness. At the same time, you feel a really strong and strange power. All of that kind of ties into how I go about writing the music. I just try and capture that feeling. ” Listen In.

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I’m so proud of this young man. Taylor Batton recently signed with Goldship Records of Bristol, TN and his first full length album will soon be released.

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His journey has not always been easy. Yet he’s stared down adversity  and has attained each one of his goals,  all the while keeping his eye on what he’s been passionate about (maritime life and music) and not given up.

I look forward to learning more about the release of your new record label and the company who has signed you, Taylor. Hearty Congratulations!

This blog is penned by the award-winning author of Gift of a Lifetime: Finding Fulfilling Things in the Unexpected and Short Stories: Lessons of Heart & Soul.

Dedication of a Student

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There are only two options regarding commitment; you’re either in or you’re out. Theres no such thing in life as in between. ~ Pat Riley 

Tanner Visnick

Several evenings last week my husband and I were occupied with “art events” and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. On Tuesday, we attended the senior voice recital of  a student named Tanner Visnick. My husband knew  Tanner only through his athletic abilities, and was astounded by his musical talents.  Tanner is also a telemark skier who is good enough to compete with the Europeans at a high level, and he is only a high school senior.

The musical compositions he chose for the evening included classical (sung in his native language as well as German and Italian) and show tunes. A mix of the serious and entertaining, his diversity of interests in music was showcased. Ave Maria, Bella Notte and An die Musik were a few of the classical tunes that he handled with great finesse. Then onto some musical theatre tunes such as Mr Cellophane (from Chicago), On the Street Where You Live (from My Fair Lady), Empty Chairs at Empty Tables (from Les Miserables), Ending with “Thankful,” which has been performed and recorded by Josh Groban on one of his many albums.

Tanner’s commitment and dedication to academics, sport and music has been admirable. Surprisingly, Tanner has his sites set on science as his major field of study next year. Thus, the “The Scientist” was included in the line up of compositions.

I hope when he goes on to college, he’s not finished with his telemark skiing and his music. He’s put too much work into it. But something tells me he will able to continue to handle almost anything that comes his way. He already at a young age, understands the commitment it takes to excel in any field.

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Photo compliments of Jeannie Visnick

Come on back to All Things Fulfilling tomorrow. We will digging up more young artistic talent when I tell you about the second senior recital I attended last week that was held at the United Methodist Church http://bit.ly/1kd4g61, presented by the Houston Music Studiohttp://bit.ly/1tY5Yxo .

This blog brought to you by Sue Batton Leonard, author of Gift of a Lifetime:Finding Fulfilling Things in the Unexpected.Sue’s memoir